Young: Kanawha-Charleston HIV Task Force is ‘working very well’

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There have been two new confirmed cases on HIV in Kanawha County so far in 2020.

The numbers being revealed at the Kanawha-Charleston HIV Task Force’s first meeting of the new year on Wednesday.

Both of the new cases are from IV drug use. 2019 saw a total of eight cases in the county from IV drug use.

Dr. Sherri Young, the Chief Health Officer for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department told the media that the current numbers are on pace for an average year.

Dr. Sherri Young

“So far in Kanawha County, we’ve had two new HIV cases. Both have been identified and both have been linked to care. Everything we have put together with the HIV Task Force seems to be working very well,” Young said.

“Not only have we identified the two new cases, which are about what we expect at this point in the year. But we have also identified people previously lost to care, people who have moved to the area and needed care, and gotten the treatment.”

Young couldn’t say enough about how the force has worked to this point since being created in October of last year.

Wednesday marked the group’s fourth meeting, made up of health professional from Bureau of Public Health in the Division of HIV, STD and Hepatitis, partners from West Virginia Health Right, officials from Charleston Area Medical Center and the Ryan White program, along with Thomas Health, first responders, and City of Charleston and Kanawha County officials.

The last meeting for the group was in December and Young said because of low numbers of cases coming in, the group will continue to meet on a bi-monthly schedule instead of monthly.

“We think all the pieces are in place,” Young said. “We are going to continue our testing, continue our outreach, and we are going to continue to work with our partners so they have every piece of getting into treatment, HIV drug treatment and drug treatment available.”

The main part of the meeting Wednesday was a deep discussion into the efforts to increase HIV testing in Kanawha County.

Young said the treatment for HIV is the same whether it’s because of IV drug use or transmitted another way. 2019 ended in the county with 19 total cases of HIV, eight from IV use.

The average for Kanawha County in recent years has been 14 HIV cases.

“The goal for people who inject is to get them into suppression,” Young said of IV drug users. “The lower viral load is, if they are on medications, the lower transmission rate that you have.”

West Virginia Health Right, who was represented at the meeting, currently has a syringe exchange program for users in the county.

The next meeting is planned for April.

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